Osceola Commission approves effort to improve roads now

The Board of County Commissioners approved its biggest investment in transportation infrastructure in the last decade on Monday night by a 4-0 vote.

Approval to refinance the Osceola Parkway will generate approximately $200 million to improve five priority roads, including but not limited to the following:  

 •Simpson Road, from U.S. Highway 192 to Osceola Parkway

•Boggy Creek Road, from Simpson Road to Narcoossee Road

•Bill Beck Boulevard, from Woodcrest to Osceola Parkway

•Poinciana Boulevard, from Pleasant Hill Road to Crescent Lakes Way

•Partin Settlement Road, from Neptune Road to East Lakeshore Boulevard

 These roads were prioritized based on a number of factors, including traffic congestion, the number of accidents, cost feasibility and a connection to Osceola Parkway.

“Pursuing the refinance of Osceola Parkway in order to improve roads now is a reflection of our County’s careful fiscal management over the last 12 years and our superior standing with the agencies that rate organizational creditworthiness,” said Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Grieb. “We will be able to deliver relief on some of our most critical roads but the County is still a long way from solving our long-term transportation issues, which exist because of decisions made long ago and exacerbated when the state removed local controls over development.”

 The county will start the refinancing process immediately. Once complete, work efforts on the identified roads will follow, starting with design of the roadway improvements, right-of-way acquisition and ultimately construction.

 The county is able to make these transportation improvements by leveraging an existing resource and maximizing Osceola’s excellent reputation with agencies that rate the County’s creditworthiness.

 Commissioners noted Monday night that while this work is an effort to improve transportation infrastructure, it will not meet Osceola County’s overall transportation demands. After voters rejected a 30-year plan to pour $2 billion into Osceola County’s transportation needs earlier this year, commissioners recognized that doing nothing simply is not a realistic option, according to a county press release.

Osceola County currently faces over a $1.1 billion backlog of needed transportation improvements. Addressing traffic congestion in one of the fastest growing counties in the state is of critical importance– despite a deficit of traditional funding to fix the problem.

While an ambitious start, the current proposal will address only about 10 percent of what would have been available if voters had approved April’s transportation surtax proposal, county officials said. The transportation surtax funds would have been spent on expanding additional roads, bridging sidewalk gaps, building more bicycle and pedestrian trails, improving intersections and enhancing mass transit services, the press release stated.

 Prior to the surtax referendum and the new refinancing plan, the County made efforts to regulate growth to ensure that future development will economically benefit the County.

For example, Osceola County:

•Increased mobility fees assessed on new development to pay for transportation impacts. They are the highest in the state.

•Asked voters to consider a transportation surtax to raise approximately $2  billion over 30 years to address a backlog of transportation needs in the County.

•Implemented an award-winning “Sustainability Plan.”

•Committed to implementing measures to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and its harmful impacts by 2060.

•Funded affordable housing efforts.

•Encouraged private investment at SunRail stations.

•Changed its LDC/Comp plan for connected communities.

•Created Mixed Use Districts to reduce trips by residents commuting to and from work.

•Invested in NeoCity to create high-wage jobs at a level never before experienced in the County.

•Reviewed school capacity reports as part of development approvals.

•Successfully leveraged state and federal dollars for transportation projects.

•Increased the level of service for LYNX riders

•Supported the opening of Phase 2 South of SunRail, which is performing above projections.